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Two inmates accused of robbing a convenience store while on the lam

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On January 3, 2024, an inmate who broke out of prison robbed a store and held the victim hostage with a crowbar.

The inmate was captured and charged with the following:

Count 1: Robbery in the First Degree — a class A felony punishable by a term of life imprisonment, or a term of years of not less than ten and not exceeding 30 years;

Count 2: Burglary in the First Degree — a class B felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 15 years;

Count 3 & 4: Stealing, a class C felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to seven years, or a fine of $5,000, or both;

Count 5: Escape from Confinement, a class A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both; and,

Count 6: Assault in the Third Degree, punishable by imprisonment of not more than 15 days, a fine of not more than $300, or both.

According to the affidavit, on January 3, 2024 at about 5:56 a.m, the suspect David Fo’a went to the Airport Way Store and took the cash register. He also threatened the cashier (victim) and told him “that if he’s going to resist or stop him from taking the cash register, he’s going to him with the crowbar”.

Further investigation revealed that after Fo’a threatened the cashier, the cashier immediately grabbed the crowbar and tried to pull it away from the suspect’s hand but Fo’a refused to let go.

While they were grappling with crowbar, the victim’s left thumb was injured so he let go of the crowbar and ran towards the other side of the counter. The suspect then went over and “grabbed the cash register, and pulled it from its stand without unplugging it.” Fo’a then “jumped over the counter with the cash register and took off.”

The store owner contacted the Tafuna Police Substation and when police officers arrived they spoke with the victim (cashier) who briefed the officers on what had happened.

 According to the victim’s verbal and written statement, “he saw this guy inside the store walking around so he wasn’t minding him; he thought it’s one of the customers,” and there were other customers inside the store at the time.

The victim stated that when the individual (suspect) knew that he was the last customer in the store, he approached him with a crowbar pointed at him, and told him “don’t speak up or make any noises or he’s going to hit him with the crowbar.”

The victim said “he then tried to snatch the crowbar from the suspect’s hand but he couldn’t because he was too strong, so he released it after it cut his thumb and ran to the other side.”

He explained that the suspect went and took the cash register and “took off with the other male individual that came with him” and was waiting outside the store.

Police officers took the footage from the store camera to view what had happened in the store, and were able to confirm that it was the same individual in a similar incident at a different store that is close to the Airport Way Store.

The surveillance footage also confirmed that the suspect who took the cash register and the other male individual that was outside watching the door were both inmates at the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF), and that they had escaped early that morning “before they went and took the cash register.”

Police officers then contacted TCF and it was confirmed that three inmates had escaped from TCF, which included Fo’a “who took the cash register as shown on the footage.”

After the police officers processed the scene, they proceeded to look for Fo’a as well as the other two escaped prisoners around the area and close to the TCF area just in case they “were on their way back to TCF.”

Fo’a was discovered when the area close to the TCF was canvassed by the the police officers and one of the officers “saw a black shirt under a metal roof behind one of the neighbor’s houses,” and calling for backup they found Fo’a hiding underneath. The suspect then tried to escape but police  arrested him and transported him to the TPS for further investigation.

Upon arrival at TPS, Fo’a was Mirandized but refused to make a statement.

The affidavit provides a note that while they were waiting for EMS to arrive, Fo’a spontaneously stated that he and two other inmates identified as Wayne Gasolo and Joeita Fa’alogo escaped from TCF that morning. “The footage also caught Wayne Gasolo wearing a red shirt outside the store.”

Fo’a was booked and confined at the TCF to await the next sitting of the District Court.

On the same day, police officers spoke with the store owner regarding the cost of the cash register and how much money was in the cash register. According to the store owner, there was an estimate of like $3,000 USD in the register, and that the cost of the cash register that was taken was valued at $1,000 USD.

Police officers later interviewed one of the witnesses at TPS and he stated that as he passed by the Airport Way store he saw two male individuals. He explained that the male individual with the gray sweater took the cash register and gave it to the guy wearing a red shirt waiting outside of the store. The suspects then “ran across (to) Coco Mart but one of them came back and changed clothes to all white”

Fo’a is identified as a 25-year-old, U.S National.